How Warren Buffett's 34-year-old protégé scored her job at Berkshire Hathaway

Tracy Britt Cool, Berkshire Hathaway
Source: Berkshire Hathaway

As a student at Harvard Business School, Tracy Britt Cool, 34, was given an assignment that asked her to imagine where she'd be in 10 years.

“My goal is to work with a great investor," she wrote, "who even more importantly is a wonderful teacher and mentor.”

Her vision was met with ridicule by a classmate, she admitted in a 2013 Lean In blog post. But at the age of 25, Cool was hired as the financial assistant and right-hand woman to Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.

How did this millennial manage to snag a coveted position working directly for the Oracle of Omaha? According to the Wall Street Journal, when Cool, a Kansas native, arrived for her interview with Buffett, who is from Nebraska, she brought the investor a “bushel of corn and a batch of tomatoes” from her family’s farm. She hoped that the folksy gesture would woo the billionaire — and it did.

But Cool’s journey to Omaha actually started well before 2009. In fact, her ascent began on her family’s fruit and vegetable farm just outside of Manhattan, Kansas.

“At around 10 years of age, I had my own farmer's market stand," Cool recalled in a 2014 interview with CNBC. "I hired my friends and set their wages, set the prices of fruit and vegetables, and I realized I liked all those aspects of business and that's what I wanted to go into.”

This 25-year-old learned a tough business lesson from Warren Buffett
This 25-year-old learned a tough business lesson from Warren Buffett

She carried that business savvy with her as an undergraduate at Harvard University, where she studied economics, and later as she pursued an MBA. In 2006, Cool met Buffett for the first time. After arranging a trip to Omaha with Harvard classmates through an organization she co-founded, Smart Women Securities, Cool reached out to the CEO to see if he'd meet with her. Buffett agreed.

According to New York Magazine, the billionaire quickly took a liking to the student, because much like Buffett, she preferred “simple old-timey stocks” to new technologies.

After graduating from HBS in 2009, Cool again reached out to Buffett and asked to work for him for “a day, a week, a month – I’ll do anything,” Fortune reports her saying.

Though the billionaire didn’t have any open positions at the time, he invited her to Omaha. The two met for lunch, where she presented him with the basket of fresh produce, and shortly thereafter, Buffett extended an offer to work as his financial assistant.

In this role, Cool performed financial research, accompanied Buffett to meetings and sometimes drove him around town, reports the Journal. Five years later, at age 30, she was named CEO of premiere kitchen tools line Pampered Chef, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary.

As the CEO, Cool leads Pampered Chef's executive team, oversees the company's long-term business strategy and is responsible for the "overall direction of the business," according to the company website.

She's also involved in other Berkshire Hathaway enterprises. Cool sits on the board of the Kraft Heinz Company and serves as chairman for Benjamin Moore, Larson-Juhl and Oriental Trading Company. Just last year, the meal kit service Blue Apron appointed her to its board of directors.

In her blog post for Lean In, Cool reflected on her career trajectory thusfar. “I’m happy to say that I have found that wonderful teacher and mentor,” she wrote, “and he couldn’t be a better boss.”

The mom, wife and businesswoman reiterated this message in a May interview with Fox Business, in which she discussed the prevalence of women on boards and how she got Buffett's attention and respect.

"I just tried to be myself," she told the network. "Berkshire is an amazing place ... I've always really appreciated that, and really enjoyed everything about the company and really everything about Pampered Chef."

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